Jeff Scott Soto saw an ad that Yngwie was looking for a lead singer so he sent a tape in to Yngwie’s managment in hopes of getting the job. The songs were from an early band he was in called Kanan. Amazingly, he received a phone call from Yngwie’s manager, Jeff Scott Soto had an easy decision to make so he left Panther, since he wasn’t really a member in the band, to take part in what was supposed to be a side project for Yngwie Malmsteen. I say a side project because Yngwie was in the band Alcatrazz when this was being made, but for some strange reason, he thought Alcatrazz was his band and Graham Bonnet felt differently and fired Yngwie. I guess we now know whose band it was. I guess you could say Yngwie has an ego problem. You could say it is a large ego or you could say it is even gigantic, both would be right as he is notoriously famous for that giant ego.
I know this is a Jeff Scott Soto series and we will get to Jeff, but the album focus is really Yngwie as it is a mostly instrumental album and only two songs feature vocals and those vocals are both handled by Jeff Scott Soto. The album was recorded in 1984 and released late in that year during November 1984. Don’t let wikipedia fool you as the album was not released in March 1984. As Jeff Scott Soto has pointed out that would be impossible as he didn’t meet Yngwie until a little after March as he was still working with Panther at that time. This album did come out before the Panther album and as I said, should’ve been the start but Panther really is the start of the story for Jeff (or at least the story I’m telling).
The debut album from Yngwie Malmsteen was called ‘Rising Force’ and did quite well garnering a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. It is heavily influenced by classical music and is a showcase of the true talent of Yngwie’s guitar mastering. It has been classified as neoclassical metal and I think that is about right. I will admit, I am not a big Yngwie fan and the only reason I own this album is because it has Jeff Scott Soto, however, this is quite an amazing album as I think this is before Yngwie’s ego completely took over and ruined things for me with him. But enough about that. Let us get to the music.
The album opens with “Black Star” which itself opens with some classical acoustic guitar and then the drums arrive and Yngwie comes in gently with some melodic scales and then all hell breaks loose with his playing. Their sounds like there is layer on layer of guitars which gives it melody and such a beautiful soaring feel. I can see why this is still today such a popular song for him and one he has said himself, he will play until the day he dies.
“Far Beyond the Sun” has more urgency than the prior track. It is uptempo and rips and roars and flies at breakneck speed. The drum work by Barriemore Barlow is spot on and adds so much to the track, but the highlight might be Jens Johansson on keyboards as he battles along side Yngwie and delivers a masterful keyboard solo. The back and forth between the two are brilliant. This song shows the talent of the whole band…well except the vocalist as again, no vocals. And to add one more thing, Yngwie’s solo on this is nothing short of amazing. It is all so perfect sounding and so clean and not sure how some one plays with such skill. How does come up with this stuff.
“Now Your Ships Are Burned” is up next and this one sounds more metal than classical. If you think 80’s metal, that is the sound. Jeff Scott Soto finally joins the fun adding some dark, gritty, yet melodic vocals. As a fan of Jeff, I will say this doesn’t really sound like Jeff sings nowadays. It is great, but is in a much deeper register as he is singing what Yngwie wants to hear. For someone so young at this time, he sings with such confidence and power and proves he belongs with the big guns. The vocals are limited as it still an Yngwie album and he is all over it.
Next up is “Evil Eye” and it brings back the classical guitar sound mixed in the the constant shredding of Yngwie. As a sucker for that classical guitar sound, I really dig this one. The song is based on Johann Krieger’s piece “Bourree” and thus all the classical pieces that are included. As you get toward the end, the song races through pounding drums and Yngwie riff after Yngwie riff. And you also get some nice bass work from Yngwie as well as he plays that too. If it has strings, he owns it!
Since he likes classical music so much, the next track, “Icarus’ Dream Suite Opus 4”, is based on the “Adagio in G minor”. It is the longest track at over 8 minutes, the most pretentious of all songs and those first three minutes are quite unexciting and rather laborious. I think it drags on for way too long and lacks so much musically. The drums, bass and whatever background noise there is simple and boring. The song does not soar and nor fly, it meanders along going no where for me. There is no big payoff in the end to make this 8 minute worth sitting through.
“As Above, So Below” is up next and kicks off with a Phantom of the Opera like organ and then the rock kicks in and so does Mr. Soto. His vocals are more in his real voice and he rips some killer high notes. Yngwie’s solos are fast and frenzied and clean and perfect with smoke coming off his fingers as no one should go that fast. Jens’ keyboards match Yngwie as he goes toe-to-toe with him. However, as a song it is kind of dull and boring overall. Lyrics are uninspiring and don’t make me want to hit repeat as there is no real catchy chorus. It does go out with a grand finale and brings back the organ but nothing can really save it.
“Little Savage” feels a little savage. It is heavier and darker in tone and is purely a showcase of Yngwie and band. It doesn’t feel like one song, but many different pieces thrown together to make a song. There is no denying the artistry of the band and especially of Yngwie, but I like my songs, even if instrumental, to feel cohesive and well…like a song. This one doesn’t do it for me. It feels wild and crazy and thus the name of the song maybe.
The final piece is called “Farewell” is only like 50 seconds long. Kind of pointless and an afterthought to maybe have one more track.
- Black Star – Keeper
- Far Beyond the Sun – Keeper
- Now Your Ships Are Burned – Keeper
- Evil Eye – Keeper
- Icarus’ Dream Suite Opus 4 – Delete
- As Above, So Below – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Little Savage – Delete
- Farewell – Delete
The Track Score is 4.5 out of 8 Tracks or 56%. Now the album is better than that as a whole. The first half of this album is utter brilliance. Some of the best playing and the songs are nothing short of amazing. The back half feels lost and disjointed. I still liked this way more than I thought I would but it really is off the strength of the first half. I could listen to those first 4 tracks over and over and not tire. The back half I could skip entirely. My Overall Score is a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars as you can’t go wrong with a lot of this. Now, since this is a Jeff Scott Soto Series, I will say that I think his vocals on here are less than inspiring as well. He hasn’t found his voice yet, but hell I think he was only 18, so he is forgiven. Thankfully, he gets more songs on the next album.
UP NEXT: YNGWIE MALMSTEEN’S RISING FORCE – ‘MARCHING OUT’ (1985)
THE JEFF SCOTT SOTO SERIES:
- Panther – ‘Panther’ (1986) – recorded in 1984
- Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Rising Force’ (1984)
- Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – ‘Marching Out’ (1985)
- Kuni – ‘Lookin’ For Action’ (1988)
- Kryst the Conqueror – ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ (1989)
- Eyes – ‘Eyes’ (1990)
- Eyes – “Nobody Said It Was Easy” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
- Talisman – ‘Talisman’ (1990)
- Talisman – “I’ll Be Waiting” (1990) – 7″ Single – Bonus Edition
- Skrapp Mettle – ‘Sensitive’ (1991)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Eternal Prisoner’ (1992)
- Eyes – ‘Windows of the Soul’ (1993)
- Talisman – ‘Genesis’ (1993)
- Takara – ‘Eternal Faith’ (1993)
- Biker Mice From Mars – ‘Biker Mice From Mars (Soundtrack)’ (1993)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Love Parade’ (1994)
- Talisman – ‘Humanimal’ (1994)
- Talisman – ‘Five Out of Five (Live in Japan)’ (1994)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Between the Walls’ (1994)
- Talisman – ‘Life’ (1995)
- Takara – ‘Taste of Heaven’ (1995)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Black Moon Pyramid’ (1996)
- Human Clay – ‘Human Clay’ (1996)
- Talisman – ‘Best of’ (1996)
- Axel Rudi Pell – ‘Magic’ (1997)
- Human Clay – ‘U4IA’ (1997)
- Talisman – ‘Truth’ (1998)
- Takara – ‘Blind in Paradise’ (1998)
- Talisman – ‘Live as Sweden Rock Festival’ (2001)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Prism’ (2002)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Holding On E.P.’ (2002) – Bonus Edition
- Humanimal – ‘Humanimal’ (2002)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘JSS Live at the Gods 2002’ (2003)
- Talisman – ‘Cats & Dogs’ (2003)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Lost in the Translation’ (2004)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at the Queen Convention 2003’ (2004)
- Talisman – ‘Five Men Live’ (2005)
- Soul Sirkus – ‘World Play’ (2005)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Believe in Me E.P.’ (2006) – Bonus Edition
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Essential Ballads’ (2006)
- Talisman – ‘7’ (2006)
- Journey – ‘Live from Atlanta (Bootleg)’ (2006)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘B-Sides’ (2006)
- Redlist – ‘Ignorance’ (2007)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Beautiful Mess’ (2009)
- Jeff Scott Soto – “21st Century” / “Gin & Tonic Sky” CD Single (2009) – Bonus Edition
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘One Night in Madrid’ (2009)
- W.E.T. – ‘W.E.T.’ (2009)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live at Firefest 2008’ (2010)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Damage Control’ (2012)
- W.E.T. – ‘Rise’ (2013)
- W.E.T. – ‘One Live in Stockholm’ (2014)
- SOTO – ‘Inside the Vertigo’ (2015)
- SOTO – ‘Divak’ (2016)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Retribution’ (2017)
- Sons of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’ (2017)
- W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’ (2018)
- SOTO – ‘Origami’ (2019)
- Sons of Apollo – ‘Live With the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony’ (2019)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Wide Away (In My Dreamland)’ (2020)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘Live and Loud in Milan 2019’ (2020)
- Sons of Apollo – ‘MMXX’ (2020)
- SOTO – ‘Revision’ (2020)
- W.E.T. – ‘Retransmission’ (2021)
- Jeff Scott Soto – ‘The Duets Collection, Vol. 1’ (2021)